Friday, March 30, 2007

Every Little Step

Chapter Seventy-Two
Ryan stared hard at both us and finally exclaimed “What? Two of them?”

“Um well, yes, there has to be. The person in Italy was shorter than that, only a little over 5’ actually. Well, maybe 5’3” at the tallest. And after the pictures were developed in Wichita, Detective Arnold agreed with that,” Adam informed him.

“Pictures?” he practically yelled. “What pictures?” he asked, flipping frantically through his notebook.

“The pictures we took at Pisa when we unwittingly caught the person in the blue hoodie in the frame, twice in fact. Not good enough to see their face, but in one of them specifically, a shot from the side, you could tell they weren’t very tall,” I informed him. He had evidently found the place in his notes that dealt with the pictures and was reading through it. It was safe to say that if it was a shock to Ryan, that was nothing to the realization that Adam and I had.

Two of them meant they could be in different places at once.

Adam reached for my hand and held it tightly and we sat there in silence, the orange and gold sunset creeping around us with softly clinging arms while Ryan read through his notes. Adam got up and turned a patio light on so that Ryan could read his notes better and then he turned the bug zapper on as well, just in case.

My mind was running rampant with different ideas and yes, fears. Two of them. Had there been two of them all along? It sort of made sense, but it was hard enough to suspect one person of this; having two to worry about seemed incomprehensible to me.

Ryan looked up from his notes, and deep furrows lined his normally smooth forehead. He was still thinking about all of this and absentmindedly tapping his closed notebook up and down on the glass tabletop.

“This changes everything; you realize that, don’t you?” he asked.

Adam and I both looked at him silently. What did he expect us to say? Yes, we realized that it changed things; it seemed to complicate them and make them even more intense. We had no idea at all who it was, whether it was two or twenty, and that made the whole situation much more unpredictable.

“Adam, we need to keep someone with you all the time,” Ryan started and Adam immediately shook his head no, very forcefully.

“No, that’s not an option, Ryan, it just isn’t.”

I was looking down at the table, tracing the little raised bumps on the glass with a fingernail and listening to what they were saying. I didn’t want anybody hanging around all the time either, but on the other hand, I didn’t want Adam hurt or worse. Would it be a huge disruption into our lives to have someone with us all the time? Absolutely, but the reward for that was keeping Adam safe, and so to me, it was totally worth it. He was not going to react well to my opinion, though; I already knew that. But I had to tell him and Ryan how I felt.

“Adam, I understand that you don’t want our lives disrupted any more than they already are, but I agree with Ryan; we need someone with us. It’s worth a little inconvenience, Adam, just to know you are safe.”

I could see right away how angry he was about that comment. And so could Ryan, who was watching Adam closely; I’m sure that’s a cop thing, it seems they miss nothing. Adam’s jaw was jutting sharply forward, and I could see the little vein in his temple pulsing rapidly. He caught my eye and while I could see that he was angry, I could also see that it wasn’t all directed toward me.

“Sarah, we don’t need someone with us. It just serves to draw more attention and I will not have it. I refuse to be one of those Hollywood people who think it makes them look important to have a bodyguard trailing around with them.”

He spoke in a quiet tone of voice, but whether Ryan recognized it or not I understood that it was shored up with steel and he had no intention of giving way right now. Maybe we should just change the subject and give him some time to think on it, I thought. I started to say that when he spoke up again.

“No, Sarah, I won’t change my mind on this, so don’t fool yourself into thinking that if you just give me some time I will,” he said with finality.

My mouth opened and then closed again. I still didn’t understand how he read me so well, but I had to hand it to him, he certainly had. But there was still a part of me hoping that he would change his mind. But now was NOT the time to try to do that. “Okay, Adam, okay. I won’t push you on this. Let’s just drop it.” I looked at Ryan with a look that I hope conveyed the fact that if he was smart he would let it go – for now.

He nodded at me almost imperceptibly; he would let it go – for now. He got up and went down the steps to the beach, whether just to explore or to give us a little time I wasn’t sure. But I was determined that whatever we did, it was not going to involve arguing with one another, and when I looked at Adam I could tell he felt the same way.

“Let’s get in the pool, Adam,” I said. It was still reasonably warm and I knew the pool water would be warm. It would be relaxing, I thought. He nodded and got up to go put his suit on. He turned off the outside light on the way, which left only the eerie blue glow of the bug zapper illuminating the patio.

I walked out toward the steps and saw Ryan sitting on the beach. Ryan looked around when he heard my steps and saw that it was only me coming out to the beach. He nodded to me and I sat down beside him. We stared silently out at the water; waves rolling ceaselessly into shore, broken only by the frothy white caps that clung to them.

“Is he always this stubborn?” he asked me, scooping up a handful of sand and letting it trickle through his fingers.

I gave a small exasperated laugh and said, “I think so. Give him time, Ryan. As you can see he doesn’t respond well to pressure like this. Let him think about it.”

“And you really think that’s going to do any good?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t know…” I told him, my voice cracking as I tried hard not to cry. “I know pushing him won’t. There aren’t any other choices that I see.” I stood up to head back up to the patio because I knew that Adam would be down soon. “We’re going to swim for awhile. Why don’t you join us, Ryan?”

He shook his head no and said, “He probably would like it better if I didn’t, Sarah. I’m not his favorite person right now.”

“One thing about Adam is that he doesn’t hold onto things like this. He does like you, Ryan, and he won’t mind if you swim with us, I promise you. It will probably be relaxing and loosen things up. And the water will be heavenly.” I held out my hand to him, and he stared at it hard for a moment before taking it and rising to his feet. Together we walked up the steps and found Adam sitting on the patio, finishing his beer.

“Are you ready to swim, love? Ryan, are you joining us? It’s not a huge pool of course, so I can’t promise you anything other than getting wet, but it is relaxing.”

“Yeah, I’ll go put on that suit that you loaned me. I’ll be right back.”

Before he had even hit the door I dove into the warm water and swam underwater the length of the pool, coming up for air in the deep end, and Adam surfaced a moment after I did. I tread water for a minute and he pulled me over to the side so we could hold on for a moment. He had an ulterior motive, I learned when he kissed me.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” I said back, wrapping my arms around his neck. I decided he could worry about holding on to the pool; I’d just worry about holding onto him.

“Still love me?” he asked, kissing me softly.

“Yes. Always,” I told him, but he heard my voice break a little bit.

“Sarah,” he murmured as he leaned his forehead against mine. “Please don’t be angry with me.”

“I’m not, Adam, I’m not. I’m scared. But I will be okay.”

Ryan came back out then we realized when we heard the door sliding closed. “Are you sure it’s warm in there? It’s November, you know!” he said as he stuck his foot into the water.

“Oh yeah, very warm,” Adam said with a smile. He pushed away from the side and headed back to that end of the pool and I followed. Ryan let himself into the water and let out a huge sigh.

“Wow, this feels really nice,” he told us, lying back in the water.

You could just see the moon peeking from behind the house; in a few more minutes we would be able to see it all, I thought. I looked up into the indigo sky and saw the stars sparkling down from the heavens, and I couldn’t help but offer up a silent prayer that Adam would stay safe.


Before we went to bed Adam explained the security system to Ryan and showed him the codes. I could tell that Ryan was very uncomfortable, but I couldn’t really tell why; was it just that he was here with us at Adam’s house or the fact that he felt like he had no control over the situation? He had Adam call William and give us a contact number for the surveillance team that was watching from the hill and Ryan called them and seemed to feel a bit better after that. He found out that reporters and paparazzi had been trying all afternoon and evening to perch up there and that true to their word, the Laguna Beach PD had made them all leave. There would also be 2 people on duty up there at all times, and possibly that helped Ryan a bit as well.

Adam and I fell into bed a little later. We were both exhausted, mentally and physically. I felt as if I could sleep for days, but I also knew that my whole attitude would be greatly improved by a good 8 hours. Someone told me once that you need less sleep as you get older, but if that is true, you couldn’t prove it by me. It’s not that I need more, but if I run on 5 – 6 hours for more than a night or two I get crabby. No, amend that, I get bitchy, and I felt like I was getting close to that now. So as much as I would like to make love with Adam, my body just wouldn’t support my dirty little brain. Which was okay, since Adam seemed to have the same thoughts as I did. We curled up spoon-fashion and were both quickly asleep.


When I woke up at about 8:30 Adam was already up and in the shower. I went in to get into the shower him, and he was more than eager for me to join him. I found him aroused and very friendly. So we were very ‘friendly’ together, but we were as quiet as we possibly could be, aware as we were of having a guest in the house. That shower was 20 minutes of bliss, I thought with a smile.

Ryan was already downstairs and sitting outside on the patio, checking in with Little Elk in Dallas. He didn’t look too pleased, and I supposed that meant that Little Elk wasn’t pleased either. His voice wafted in through the screen doors occasionally, and it sounded tight and clipped.

Adam got coffee brewing, and I wrapped my arms around him as he measured coffee into the coffee maker. I ran my hands up underneath his green polo shirt and played with the wisps of hair on his chest. After he turned the switch on so the coffee could start brewing, he turned around in my arms and pulled me tightly against him.

“Still feeling a bit ‘friendly,’ are we?” he purred into my ear. His voice was low and sexy, and I shivered as I felt his warm breath caress my ear.

“Mm,” I told him, burrowing my face against his neck as I stood on my tiptoes. He smelled clean and so dear to me, that smell that is just intrinsically Adam; sunshine and sex, all rolled into one.

If the definition of ‘friendly’ meant wanting him continually, then I’m afraid I have a terminal case.

We stood there having a lovely snog until the coffee finished brewing a few minutes later. I reluctantly pulled away from his arms to go to the cabinet to get mugs for the coffee, and while I started pouring, Adam started preparations for breakfast. I watched as he pulled the various ingredients out of the cupboards and smiled broadly. Ryan (and I) were getting a treat for breakfast.

I went to the sliding patio door and held up a cup of coffee to Ryan and softly asked, “Black?” and at his nod I took it out and set it on the table in front of him. He had his notebook open and was making notes furiously as he listened to Little Elk. He looked up and caught my eyes briefly and grimaced before mouthing ‘thank you’ to me. I shrugged with a smile and headed back inside to help Adam with breakfast.

Adam was popping some ‘bangers’ into the broiler as I wordlessly grabbed the veggies he had laid out on the counter. I started chopping them up in preparation for omelets and then went hunting for the grater to get the cheese ready. He had put out some Gruyere and as I grated it I watched him beat eggs and get the pan ready. We chatted about the game later this morning, and it was such an ordinary scene, a couple making breakfast together, and yet outside we had people who were watching over us to make sure we were safe.

Ryan came in then and looked around the kitchen at the preparations for breakfast. He was just dripping with tension; it was in the way he moved and held his body. I pointed to a chair and motioned for him to sit. He didn’t look upset about that. I poured him some more coffee and watched surreptitiously as he slowly sipped it. His strain was still palpable and I decided not to try to chat with him, to just give him a bit of time to recover from whatever Little Elk had said. I figured that if it pertained to us he would tell us all about it soon enough anyway.

His nose finally woke him out of his brooding thoughts, and he lifted his head appreciatively and sniffed the air. I was popping some toast in when he decided to walk around and inspect the preparations.

“You like omelets?” Adam asked.

“Yep. You just throw everything in there but the kitchen sink and I’ll be happy!” he laughed as he looked over the veggies and cheese.

Adam was turning the sausage over in the oven when the phone rang. I went over to answer it, dreading who it might be, and smiled when I saw it was Tamara.

“Hello!” I answered into the phone.

“Sarah?” a boyish voice asked, and I realized I was talking to Tristan.

“Yes. Hi Tristan. Are you ready for your game this morning?”

“Yeah. Are you and Daddy coming?” he asked, and I could hear a decidedly hopeful tone in his voice. It was so endearing, I thought as I imagined his small face waiting eagerly for my answer.

“Absolutely, we wouldn’t miss it. So are you Tigers ready for this game? If you win do you get to go to the finals?” I looked up to see Adam watching me as he worked on the omelet. He was making one huge one, I noticed with a smile. Our eyes met for a moment and there was something in his that twisted in the pit of my stomach, so strongly emotional it felt. It was joy, I realized, pure and unabashed, the kind that we don’t often feel because of all the cautions we carry around about everything. My mind was quickly pulled back to the conversation with Tristan as he was performing his fierce Tiger growl for me, and I had to laugh when I heard it. How could anything be wrong with our world, I wondered?

And yet it was.

“Well, if the other Tigers are as enthusiastic as you are I’m sure you’ll win the game! Did you want to talk to your daddy?”

“No – I just wanted to know if you were coming. I’ll see you there, Sarah!” and then the line started buzzing and the call was gone.

Adam raised his eyebrows at me questioningly and I shook my head. “Sorry, he only wanted to know if we were coming.” He only laughed and I realized he wasn’t upset that Tristan hadn’t talked to him. I saw that Ryan had taken over finishing the toast, so I sat down at the table. Adam had pulled the sausage out of the broiler and then slid the omelet onto a huge platter and surrounded it with the sausages. Ryan sat the toast onto the breakfast bar just as Adam sat the platter down and remembered the juice in the fridge. I got up to grab some glasses and we were finally ready to eat.

After his first bite of the omelet Ryan sighed and mumbled something about it being the best he had ever had and he couldn’t quite decide what was different about it. Adam and I just smiled at that remark and said nothing. Ryan finally got around to telling us at least some of what Little Elk had said.

“They are still running DNA tests on the hair that was found on the rubber band. It will be another 24 hours or so before the results are in on it though. But, they found the outside surveillance tapes from the convenience store a little more helpful. It showed the person getting into a car and pulling away. They were on the fringes of the camera’s range, but they are hopeful to get enough information from it to track down the car. They do feel very sure that it is a male who bought the phone. That’s something at least.”

“Why are they so sure it is a man?” I asked curiously. “I mean, there are women who are tall too, couldn’t it have been a taller woman?”

“True, there are lots of women tall enough to do it, but a couple of the shots showed the body pretty clearly, if not the face. It definitely looked male, Little Elk said. But of course that’s not for sure, you have to understand.”

Adam and I both nodded at this news. We were both more sure than ever now that there were two people. The one in Italy had been a small person. Whether man or woman we didn’t know, but that person was shorter than I am.

Ryan continued then after taking another bite of his sausage. “The car was a dark blue Taurus, 4 door with what is probably a Texas plate on it, but it is so far from the camera by the time you see it that it’s almost impossible to make out. There is a clear ‘S’ on it and what might be a ‘1’, but that isn’t all that helpful really. But they are running plate combinations to see if they come up with any likely matches. There were no other calls made from that phone that we could track, only the call to your house. But so few people had access to that number that it helps to narrow thing down quite a bit, so don’t give up, you two; we’ll find whoever is behind this, I promise you,” Ryan said emphatically. His face was steeped in seriousness, and I knew without a doubt that if it were possible, he would find out who was doing this.

“There’s one more thing I, uh Little Elk and I would like you to consider. Now you don’t have to give me an answer immediately, but please just consider it, okay?”

I looked at Adam and we both wore frowns; what could he be asking that would cause such consternation, I wondered?

“Please consider letting me stay with you. I would still be working for Dallas PD, but I would accompany you to the set in Dallas and when you go back to Italy. We feel that there needs to be some consistency in this case. I’m sure all the police departments are very helpful, but having someone there who has the whole history really is the best thing. In Italy, I would technically have to be working for you as security; I couldn’t be a police representative, you must understand.”

I didn’t know what to think really. It made sense, what he said, and yet I wondered if it would really do any good in the long run. Adam and I looked at one another, and I couldn’t gauge what he was thinking.

“I know you don’t want any attention drawn to you, Adam, I understand that, and I will do as much as I possibly can to stay out of your way. Understand this, though; I’m going to be on the set in Dallas, if for no other reason than that Little Elk has said so. I’m there to hopefully be a deterrent as well as security for you anyway, so by the time you go back to Italy everyone will be used to me.” He paused for a moment, as if trying to formulate his next words and finally said, “Adam, this whole thing is escalating; we don’t think it is just going to stop. There is a purpose behind it, and you need the protection. Please, let it be me; I – I can do this Adam, I can.”

Adams mouth was pursed as he thought it all over. We both knew that what Ryan said was true. And we both liked Ryan; as far as bodyguards go, we were used to him, sort of, and we trusted him. I nodded at Adam, hoping that he would accept this offer. It was one we could live with, I thought.

“Would you be with us all the time?” Adam asked.

Ryan nodded reluctantly. “I’ll give you as much privacy as possible, please understand that. I don’t want to be hanging around you constantly, but I would stay with you in the house in Dallas and hopefully in some kind of adjoining room in Italy.”

My heart sank as I heard him say that; I knew how Adam would feel about that. Part of our relationship was so spontaneous, and Adam would hate having to curtail that; but on the other hand, it didn’t mean we couldn’t still make love either. I spoke up when I remembered Thanksgiving.

“Ryan, we’ll be spending a week or so in Wichita for Thanksgiving. Adam’s family is coming in for that, and all of my family will be there as well.”

”Wichita isn’t a problem really, not at all,” he told us, and I wondered if Detective Arnold had anything to do with that.

My eyes focused on Adam, willing him to agree to this, or at the very least agree to think about it for awhile before deciding. Finally Adam spoke, “You really think that this will be a deterrent?”

“Honestly? No, we don’t. Adam, we think that whoever is going to do this will just try to find another way. But since it is probably someone from the film, they will at least know that I am with you. They are determined, Adam, deadly determined now that they have killed Rachel. They aren’t going to stop, you must realize that. This is the best way we can protect you, and Rachel’s murder was committed in our jurisdiction so we have a stake in what happens. This is the best way, Adam, please believe me.”

His voice was so earnest and convincing, and I saw Adam’s doubt fall away from his face before he nodded. “All right Ryan, we’ll try it. I can’t say I don’t have strong misgivings, but I also see that what you have said is true. I accept the fact that they probably aren’t going to stop.”

I quickly let out a long breath and realized that I had been holding it in waiting for his answer. We would make it work, I thought, we would.


The Tigers unfortunately did not win the game, although they played valiantly; in the end the score was 5 – 3. Tristan and Geoff were both very upset, understandably so. Ryan had enjoyed the game tremendously, standing along the sidelines with Adam and Mark and cheering the boys on, and I realized he wasn’t just doing that to be physically near Adam; he loved the game and was totally into it.

I told Tamara about the decision that Adam had made regarding Ryan and she was really happy about that. “Oh, Sarah, Mark and I were hoping for something like this and we both liked Ryan. He’ll do a good job I’m sure. But I also know how much Adam is going to chafe at the bit about this; he’s likely to often be grouchy so be prepared!”

“I know, but we both like Ryan too, and it won’t be forever. I don’t mind at all, and I’m also glad about it. It is getting so scary, Tamara. I am always thinking about Adam’s safety because he just doesn’t.”

She nodded in sympathy and put her arm around me for a quick hug. “It will all be okay, Sarah, hang in there please. Adam is so worth it.”

“Yes he is. I just feel so happy to have found him. He makes me feel like the luckiest woman alive. Now, I was wondering since Ryan is with us if the boys could spend the night? We’ll be very watchful, I promise.”

She thought about that for a moment and finally said, “Yeah, I think it will be okay, and I know they are wanting to very badly.”

It occurred to me then that I hadn’t told her about our discovery that there were likely two people involved in this, and I wasn’t sure how to tell her about it, but I knew I had to. So I just told her, the simplest way I knew how.

She watched me as I told her, and her face registered shock and then fear. She finally spoke up and said, “It never occurred to us that there was more than one person involved in this, Sarah, it just didn’t.”

I nodded and told her, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about this before asking if the boys could stay the night. It really did just slip my mind, Tamara. I’ll understand if you don’t want them to stay, really.”

“Let me think about it, Sarah, and see what the day brings. There is also the security up on the hill that is watching over everything, and if I know William at all they are excellent at their jobs. Yeah, let’s just go through the day and see how it goes.”

I nodded my agreement and we turned our attention back to the boys’ game. Geoff was with the men, and it was adorable to watch him as he was so totally engrossed in the game like them. Afterwards the boys rode with us back to our house while Tamara and Mark went back to their house to pick up their offerings for the meal later today. The boys were hungry, and this included the big boys as well, I thought with a shake of my head as Adam promised sandwiches and chips back at our house. When we got there, the boys tumbled out of the car, and I noticed Ryan scanning the area for any signs of trouble. He made a quick call on my cell and I thought it was probably to the people on the hill, but apparently everything was fine and we all entered the house, the boys rushing downstairs to change into their swim suits. I headed in to do the same thing and remembered to grab the sunscreen and reminded the boys to get theirs too.

Adam had laid out everything for the sandwiches and then gone to change into his suit. He told Ryan he might as well do the same thing, and Ryan nodded and headed off to his bedroom.

We all met back in the kitchen in time for Tamara and Mark to arrive in their own suits. I looked at Tamara, with her beautiful olive skin and legs that were a mile long, but I didn’t feel jealous. She was beautiful, but I was coming to see myself as beautiful too, if only in Adam’s eyes, and that was enough.

Sandwiches and chips were devoured by greedy little and big mouths and everyone was full as we cleaned up the kitchen. Ryan seemed to get on with the boys very well and couldn’t wait to get outside to play with them. His eyes lit up appreciatively at the sight of the remote-controlled cars, and he eagerly took Adam’s when it was offered and off the three of them went while Tamara, Mark, Adam, and I watched from the patio.

Talk of course drifted to Adam’s decision to let Ryan stay with us, and Mark agreed with Tamara and me both. As I watched Adam I realized that he was beginning to be more comfortable with the choice to let Ryan stay, which was great. After awhile (awhile being determined by how long it took for the batteries to run out on the cars) we all went out to swim in the ocean for a bit. The water was a clear green-blue and still fairly warm. I knew that Adam didn’t like swimming in the Pacific much, but the boys did and so did I, so he went along with it.

There is just such a sense of freedom in swimming in the ocean. Whether it’s the sand that shifts below your feet or the salty taste and smell that clings to everything I didn’t know, but I would take the ocean any day over the pool. Although, don’t get me wrong; the pool will do in a pinch!

Eventually Tamara and Adam headed in to start making preparations for dinner. Mark, Ryan, and I stayed out on the beach for a while longer. Mark and I sat on a blanket and watched Ryan run through the water with the boys, seemingly tireless. I laughed and said, “I wonder if I ever had that much energy!”

Mark laughed in response and said, “Sure you did; you had two kids, Sarah.”

“I suppose, but it seems like a long time ago. A very long time!” I felt the warm sunshine against my skin and thought how wonderful it felt. I inhaled a deep breath of the ocean breeze, tantalizingly salty, and I licked my lips and tasted the salt there as well. For awhile I just let myself be filled with the peace of this place.

Tristan came over and sat down between Mark and me and asked, “Sarah, is Ryan your kid too? Like Derek and Lissa?”

“No, he’s just a friend of ours. Do you like him?” I answered.

“Yeah, he’s fun. But he looks around a lot. How come?”

It was amazing to me how observant kids can be, and I thought for a moment about how to answer that without scaring him.

Mark rescued me and answered, “He’s a policeman. Did he tell you that?” And when Tristan nodded yes he finished, “Well, they do that a lot, you know. They are always watching to make sure everything is okay.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. I like him!” he said. Just then the object of the conversation and Geoff came over to the blanket as well and sat down. The boys were chatting happily about the coming dinner when my phone rang. Ryan was sitting closest to it and looked at it with a grimace. It must be Little Elk, I thought with a wry smile.

Ryan answered it and got up to walk down the beach a bit. Geoff got up to follow, and Mark told him to stay with us and after a not-so-happy look he stayed put.

“Sarah, what time is it?” Tristan asked when I glanced at my cell phone.

“It’s almost 3:00, why?”

“It’s time for Sponge Bob Square Pants!” they chorused together and got up to run into the house.

I looked at Mark and laughed. “I guess we can’t compare to Sponge Bob!” I stood up and so did Mark. We shook the blanket off and got at least some of the sand off of it. Ryan looked at me questioningly and I pointed to the house. His ears were red again and I wondered how he stood it, having to deal with Little Elk all the time.

The rest of the day and evening was wonderful. Adam and Tamara prepared a feast; grilled chicken and salads, and Tamara again made homemade ice cream and brought the stuff to make sundaes with. They were perfect endings to the evening, I thought as I drizzled warm hot fudge over the ice cream and added nuts and whipped cream and finally a cherry. Adam grinned at the huge concoction I had created, and I laughingly told him, “All mine!” when he acted like he was going to dip his spoon into it.

We sat on the patio as we ate our ice cream and Tamara said, “Boys, would you like to stay here tonight?” The look on Adam’s face was as touching as the boys’ and I saw how happy he was they were staying. I looked at Tamara and smiled at her; I was so thankful she had let them stay.

They later gave Tamara and Mark eager hugs and kisses and then went off quietly to take their baths as the adults were saying goodbye.

I hugged Tamara tight and whispered, “Thank you,” into her ear. She murmured that it was okay back to me and I waved as she and Mark drove away. She wasn’t as dear to me as Cassie, but she was coming closer. And I couldn’t wait for them to meet at Thanksgiving.

Adam locked up the house and soon the boys were out of the bath and dressed for bed. As we bestowed hugs and kisses upon them my heart warmed when I realized they were hugging and kissing me as much as I was them. There was balance, and it felt good.

Copyright 2006 Cynthia Hope Hodge

Thursday, March 29, 2007


It's still rainy here and so I thought for those of you who are having rain or other equally not happy weather I would post a few of MY favorite Colin pictures. If you have a favorite of your own and you would like to share, e-mail it to me at and I'll post it for you!

From Tigger!

And a couple more faves!

From Kristin

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Chapter Seventy-One

“’Is Little Elk really pissed’ is an understatement Sarah,” Ryan confided with a laugh. But his face grew red again and I couldn’t help but feel it hadn’t been a pleasant conversation for him and I sincerely hoped he wouldn’t get into any real trouble for our having decided to stay here this weekend. It wasn’t Ryan’s fault; he had no control of us or our actions but Little Elk might not see it the same way.

Adam was up searching through the pantry and the fridge, inventorying supplies I was sure. I looked at Ryan and said, “Would you like to go outside to the patio Ryan? We could take our plates out there.” He nodded eagerly and soon we were sitting outside in the warm sun on the patio, the light reflecting back to us off the pool.

Ryan scanned the whole area, how the natural rock wall surrounded most of this area and provided privacy as well as some security. The rock wall formed a loose ‘C’ around the area with the pool at the open end and extending to the left with the hot tub joined to it at the upper side near the house. The patio table sat just to the back of the house side of the pool while the barbeque area sat to the bottom right of the pool. On the opposite side were the steps leading down to the beach. He again looked up towards the hill where the security people were and scrutinized it carefully.

I inwardly smiled because he was apparently a cop through and through; not quite able to stop checking things out. I’ve never really known a cop before and I liked this young man a great deal already and that made me think again about Little Elk.

“So, what did Little Elk have to say Ryan?”

He ears immediately turned red again as he remembered Little Elks words. He cleared his throat and said, “Let’s just say that he is not a happy man this weekend and when that 6’5” Comanche gets pissed it’s never a good thing.”

I wondered if it would help if I told him I’m an eighth Cherokee I thought facetiously. “Is he your boss?”

“Yep. He is the head of the detectives. He never gives up on a case. I almost pity whoever is doing this to you because he won’t stop until he has got them. Did you ever see the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Sarah?”

“Yeah I did. It’s one of my favorite movies in fact.”

He nodded his head and smiled, his eyes gazing at a faraway place. “Do you remember the Indian guy, Lord Baltimore who tracked them over impossible places and always managed to follow them?”

I nodded and he continued, “Well that guy ain’t got nothin’ on Little Elk!”

“Oh dear. Or maybe I should say fantastic. I’m not totally sure. But he understands that you had no control over what we decided to do doesn’t he?”

“Nope. He’s still probably figuring that Adam is going to cave and come back because of what he said to him. Let’s face it, not too many people cross him. He’ll calm down a bit over the weekend thankfully, before I see him on Monday.”

I was frowning, thinking about it. It was our decision and Ryan had nothing to say about it; had no choice in the matter at all in fact and it seemed unreasonable that Little Elk would hold it against him. I suddenly realized I felt like a mother protecting her young!

Ryan had watched my face and suddenly said, “Hey Sarah, he’ll get over it. He won’t fire me or anything.” And under his breath I distinctly heard him mutter “I hope!”

Adam came out carrying a plate and his bottle of water and sat them down on the table and then pulled a chair up for himself. He had changed into a pair of khaki shorts and a turquoise colored tee shirt. He looked wonderful in it and I saw that his hair was a bit wet, so he must have taken a quick shower before changing.

We brought Adam in on the conversation about Little Elk and Adam grinned ridiculously over it, before he laughed out right. “I’m afraid he is probably a little dismayed over me then.”

“Why? What did he say to you on the phone?” I asked, beginning to worry all over for Ryan.

“He just told me that it was impossible for us to stay here and pointed out several reasons for it and that he would meet us at the airport when we arrived back in Dallas. That’s when I told him we couldn’t do that. I think I heard him saying something about ‘you will do it’ when I hung up the phone. Yes, I’m sure he’s a bit angry.”

Ryan smiled at that and said, “It’s a good thing I didn’t bring my cell phone. It’s a department phone so I left it in Dallas. He’d be driving me crazy right about now.”

“He has our numbers. Adam, did you check yours? I turned mine off this morning, but it’s in my purse. I should probably check it though, for messages other than Detective Little Elk's!” I got up to go in and grab my phone.

Adam called out to me, “I had 3 messages from him love. I, uh haven’t listened to them yet.” He looked at Ryan and smiled; his eyes were definitely twinkling.

As I walked away I heard Adam tell Ryan that if he needed to use the phone for any reason to feel free to use any of the house phones and as I slid the screen door closed behind me I heard Ryan thank him.

As I walked past the kitchen, the phone rang there and I saw that it was William. I called out to Adam and said, “Adam, William is calling, shall I answer it?” and he said yes so I picked it up.

“Hello,” I said into the phone.

“Ah Sarah, its William Patton. Is Adam available?”

“Yes, he’s on his way in actually. Can you hold on for a minute?” I stood there for a moment holding the receiver and Adam walked it and took it from me, but not before kissing me briefly. He and William were already chatting by the time I was in the bedroom.

I opened my purse and pulled out my phone. It took a few seconds for it to power up and start searching for messages and while that was happening I decided to change into my swimsuit and maybe swim a bit. By the time I had changed and found the sunscreen, I saw that I had 7 messages. I wondered how many were from Little Elk. I have never had that many messages before in my life; not on my personal phone that is.

I scrolled through the list of messages and saw 3 from Little Elk; at least he’s consistent I thought with a laugh. I also had one each from mom and dad, Lissa, Derek and Cassie. I decided to take the phone with me downstairs and call them from outside. At least I could sit in the warm sunshine while talking to them.

I was almost ready to head outside when Adam came into the room and smiled at me in my bathing suit appreciatively. He pulled me to him for a kiss and said, “I like this!”

“Just remember we aren’t alone here! We have what seems to be a very earnest young man staying with us who probably has ears like an antelope!” I laughed.

“That could put a cramp into our style couldn’t it my love? We’ll just have to make love very, very quietly. Shall we practice now love, hm?” he asked while nuzzling my neck.

“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I told him all the while leaning my head back so that he might get to my neck a bit more easily.

The phone rang then; the house phone and Adam reluctantly pulled his mouth away from my neck and looked at it. “It’s Mrs. Barber. I hope nothing is wrong,” he said before answering.

I watched as he frowned while he listened to her talk and then asked her if she needed any help with the groceries. After a small pause he told her that Ryan would come out to help and then hung the phone up.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“The press are camped outside the house, a half dozen cars. I guess they realized that we didn’t go back to Dallas. I’m going to ask Ryan to help her get the groceries in and then we are going to close the doors and ignore them. C’mon,” he said, holding his hand out to me.

We walked downstairs and found Ryan standing by the steps down to the beach and watching some of the paparazzi as they wandered out onto the beach looking for a vantage point from which to take pictures. He looked over his shoulder at us as we came back out and said, “We’ve got company.”

“Yes, in fact if I could ask for you indulgence for a moment Ryan? Mrs. Barber is in the driveway, with the press surrounding her. Could you go out and grab the groceries from her so that she can be on her way? It would help a great deal.”

Ryan headed into the house and up the stairs with Adam and I following behind. He peeked out the windows out front before opening the door. “Holy moley, they are everywhere.” He turned to look at Adam and asked, “Don’t they ever leave you alone?”

Adam dryly answered “Occasionally.”

Ryan said, “Step back,” and then opened the door and stepped out into the flash of a dozen cameras. That activity quickly stopped when they realized it wasn’t Adam, but the questions started then. He told them all “No comment” and when that didn’t help he flashed his badge and said, “You all are trespassing. If you don’t want to spend a little time in jail, I’d suggest you head out of here. And keep in mind that it’s a private beach folks, okay?” he said, smiling a mile wide.

None had been close enough or quick enough to notice that the badge was from Dallas and not local and it seemed to have some effect. They withdrew to the land across the road. They would probably migrate up to the hill as well.

“They are going to go up on the hill aren’t they?” I asked solemnly.

“They’ll try yes. It is public access ground, but I’ll call the local police and they will keep them at bay. William has already informed them that there are security people up there and about the death threat. They will take care of it, I’m sure.”

We watched as Ryan headed back to the house carrying a dozen plastic grocery bags. He looked like some sort of surrealistic beast of burden with weird appendages everywhere. Adam opened the door quickly and in he came. Mrs. Barber was already pulling out of the drive as Adam and I were grabbing bags from him. We shut and locked the door before taking the groceries downstairs.

On the way I laughed and commented “I like how you just flashed that badge there Detective! Very impressive.”

Ryan gave a silly and ridiculous grin, “Well, what good does it do if you can’t flash it around every now and then?” He laughed and added, “At least they didn’t notice it wasn’t a California badge!”

In the kitchen we put away groceries and I practically drooled when I saw the wonderful steaks that Adam was going to prepare for dinner. And Mrs. Barber had bought huge potatoes to bake to go with them and bags of salad. My mouth was watering and I didn’t think I could wait another minute to eat.

For tomorrow it looked like there was chicken and ribs and lots of fresh veggies to grill to go with them. Oh, it was going to be heavenly I decided.

“Did you give her some money to pay for all this?” I asked when I ran across the receipt and saw that she had spent nearly $150 dollars on all this.

“No, she has a household account credit card she uses,” he told me with a smile. I raised my eyebrows at that but I wasn’t really surprised to hear it I guess. She had to have some way of taking care of things when Adam wasn’t here.

Adam called William before we got started with preparations and told him about the paparazzi camped outside. William evidently told him he would get on it and Adam hung the phone up and started to get things organized for dinner.

“So how long until dinner?” I wheedled, just like one of the boys.

He cast a glance at the clock; it was almost four o’clock, a little early to eat, but since other than the snack we hadn’t eaten all day I think he decided his stomach had waited long enough. “Let’s get those potatoes washed and into the oven. They’ll take close to an hour to bake, so we might as well get started.

He had me wash them and then poke holes in them before coating them with butter and rolling them in kosher salt in preparation to baking. I sat them on a baking sheet in the oven and soon they were baking away, to all our satisfaction. Adam put Ryan to work snipping fresh chives to go with the sour cream and I started working on the asparagus. I loved fresh asparagus and it reminded me of the night at Pappas Brothers restaurant in Dallas.

After Ryan had successfully snipped the chives and still had all his fingers, Adam put him to work chopping vegetables for a salad, while he got the steaks ready. The phone rang again and I saw that it was William yet again as I picked it up.

“Yes, just a minute,” I told him, handing the phone to Adam. He talked with William for several minutes before hanging up and when he got off the phone he told us what William had said.

“He called the Laguna Beach police department and was eventually connected to Detective Roberts. Do you remember her love?”

I nodded yes, but it was a miracle that all the police weren’t running together in my mind. But she specifically stood out because of how she dealt with Rachel. She didn’t take any of Rachel’s histrionics and I was impressed by that, but then she still questioned Tamara and I had hated that, even if I understood it.

“Well, she may drop by later, but in the meantime the police are going to move the reporters along. They will say that hanging around on that hill over there,” he nodded his head in the general direction of it, “is considered loitering and if they go out on the beach in back of the house they can be arrested for trespass. This should keep them mostly at bay, enough for a peaceful weekend anyway. Also, William has let it be known that I will be giving an interview on Sunday for a few reporters and that anyone viewed as ‘unfriendly’ would certainly have no chance at attending that interview. That will help too.”

“So who is Detective Roberts?” Ryan asked.

We told him all about her and he nodded in approval. “She was very professional Ryan and helpful,” I added, “But the police, over all, well it’s been a very frustrating situation, that’s all.”

“Why is that Sarah?” he asked sincerely. And I could tell he was really interested in the answer.

I thought back to the night in Texas when we found the rat and the diatribe that had run through my mind then. Those thoughts hadn’t ever really gone away since then and I took a deep breath while trying to decide if I really wanted to tell him. Despite the fact that I liked him, he was one of ‘them’. Adam had sat down at the breakfast bar and was twisting his almost empty bottle of water around in his hands and he watched me as I tried to make my mind up. In the end, I decided that my mind had been made up when I had first mentioned the situation; I was going to talk about it. Maybe it would help hearing it from the police perspective.

“Ryan,” I began slowly, trying to choose my words carefully. “It’s a frustrating situation, for everyone. I understand that, but we have now dealt with police in Italy, Wichita, here, and Texas and while everyone is courteous and takes copious notes in their notebooks and asks all sorts of questions, nothing changes. The notebooks are always the same,” I told him, seeing him smile at that but taking no offense, “And the questions are pretty much the same, but nothing helps. It’s not that we don’t think you are doing your jobs, it’s just that, well, there isn’t really anything that helps, clues I guess I mean. So at a certain point we just have to wonder, why bother? Last night, when Adam got that call we came pretty close to not calling, we did.”

“Sarah, Adam, you haven’t withheld anything have you?” he asked, clearly alarmed.

We both shook our heads no, in unison. Adam answered, “No, we haven’t but last night I had to wonder if it would do any real good – if it would provide any help, that’s all.”

“I understand how you feel about that, how frustrated you get. But look at the clues we got last night. The phone and note and that hair which could provide DNA evidence. Those are huge things, you need to remember that. And we will try to work on electronically enhanced voices and see if you can identify a type.”

“Yes Ryan but what good will that do? It is almost a given now that it was electronically enhanced so is it going to tell us who? It’s not likely to,” Adam finished.

“What it might be able to tell us is what kind of equipment it was done on, which will help to tell us where. Not every place has access to every kind of equipment.”

“You’re dealing with a movie studio Ryan; there is all sorts of amazing equipment available.”

“Yes but does everyone have access to it? Are there any kinds of checks for who is where? I feel sure there must be.”

Adam grimaced as he thought about all that. He was resting his head in his hands and ran his fingers through his hair with both of his hands and sighed. “Maybe, maybe…” He glanced at his watch and said, “It’s time for me to get the grill going, excuse me.” He was very formal again, his protective shield fully in place and he needed to retreat a bit. I said nothing as he headed out doors.

“Is he okay Sarah?”

“Yeah, he just needs a little bit of time Ryan. He’ll be okay. My daughter is in school to become a doctor and one of the things she said she has come to recognize is that doctors often forget what it is like to be the patient because they are so wrapped up in being the doctor. I would have to say that police seem to have that same characteristic too.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand exactly,” he told me.

“Just that, you all see it from a very clinical point of view. It’s very cut and dried to you and you know that by methodically following policies and procedures you have the best luck at solving the crime. And I’m sure that does work the most often. But you forget what it’s like to be on this side of it all Ryan.” I looked at him and he was almost shocked and I reached across and took his hand for a moment. He looked up at me and I could see that he was thinking about what I had said. “When you are on this side it is very different. You are scared and confused and in our situation, fearful of whom we can trust and who we can’t. So we tend to stick with those people that we instinctively can trust, like Tamara, but in your methodical means of solving crimes, you don’t have that luxury of trust I’m sure. You can’t tell me Ryan that part of the reason you are here today isn’t to observe these other people,” I finished and absurdly I found a tear running down my face.

“It’s all part of the process Sarah. Someone is doing this and sometimes it’s easier to rule people out to cut down the number of suspects. Yes, I’m here partly to do just that. But I am also here to help you and Adam. Little Elk disagrees, but he did let me come. Sarah that first night I met you, you sort of went straight to my conscience. You were so upset, understandably so, but it seemed more than that. And I felt very ineffectual about what we were doing. As a police officer we must remain impartial and I haven’t lost that, but it is important to me to solve this. You made a comment earlier, about you and me coming from the ordinary world. Well, we do, but he doesn’t and you’re with him so there must be something special to that guy. Sarah,” he told me as he looked straight into my eyes, “We will figure this all out, I promise.”

“Now,” he told me with a smile as he headed over to the phone, “I think I need to call Little Elk and see what if anything is going on. Give him a chance to yell at me some more, it’s like releasing a pressure valve,” he laughed.

I nodded and headed outside where Adam was messing with the grill. I couldn’t see anyone hanging around our here and that was a pleasing thought.

“Hi,” I told him as I put my arm around his waist. He was using a wire brush on the racks in preparation to preheating the grill.

He looked down at me and smiled, but it was a sad smile all the same. “Where is our young detective,” he asked, looking around me.

“Braving the lion,” I laughed. “He is calling Little Elk, says it’s best to let him yell a bit, like a pressure valve. Are you okay Adam? With him being here I mean?” It’s not exactly like we could change that. I mean, I guess we could refuse to let him stay here, but he’d probably camp out at the beach or something equally as ridiculous.

“Yeah, yeah, I am. I rather like him, but it’s all frustrating Sarah. I just can’t stop it all from going through my head. I’ve got that voice on my mind and it’s driving me insane. Maybe not a far trip, eh?”

So that’s what was going on – he was thinking about the voice. I felt an immediate sense of relief that it wasn’t about Ryan being here at the house. I wondered if he had figured out the same thing that I had though, that part of the reason he was here was to observe the other people in our life. I decided that if he hadn’t, now was not the moment to add that into his already busy brain. I watched him ignite the grill and then we headed back in to get the steaks and found Ryan, ears red again listening to Little Elk and taking notes – in his notebook I noticed with a smile.

We tried to ignore him as I got the asparagus ready to steam and Adam was seasoning the steaks. We talked quietly to each other about getting to see the game tomorrow and how excited we were about it. I knew that we both wished we could see them all, but we didn’t voice that to each other; it would do no good.

“Have you ever made Hollandaise sauce love? Do you know how?” he asked me as I was checking to see if the water was steaming yet.

“No and no. Not a clue. Do you want some?”

“It’s not really necessary, for me anyway. What do you think about Ryan?”

“I would bet he doesn’t even know what it is Adam. And the asparagus with a bit of butter and seasoning is my favorite way. And lemon and I know we have some. That should be fine. Actually, I’m not even sure he has ever had asparagus, judging from the way he looked at it. I think this is a hamburger and French fry kind of guy here, with maybe some salsa thrown in.”

He got off the phone then and said, “Did I hear someone mention salsa? I LIKE salsa!”

“But do you like asparagus?” I quipped.

“I don’t know,” he told me with a huge laugh. “But I’ll pretty much eat anything that doesn’t eat me first!”

Adam smiled at me out of the corner of his eyes and for the first time today I saw the dimples. I reached up and pulled his head down to kiss him and he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me close. “Close your eyes for a moment Ryan!” he teased and proceeded to kiss my thoroughly, leaving me breathless.

Ryan of course watched the whole thing and laughed about it. “Glad to know that I still have something to look forward to when I’m your age,” he joked.

I just looked into Adams eyes and he mouthed ‘I love you’ and I did the same thing back to him. I could hear the pan of water gurgling as it came to a boil and Adam released me to go put the steaks on the grill. Ryan followed him outside. After all, that is the manly thing to do, hang around the grill. I wondered what Little Elk had said, but I supposed we would hear sometime, if he had any new information that was.

I threw the asparagus in and then went to the door and asked them if they wanted to eat outside because it was still so beautiful out. The sun would be setting in an hour and it would be breathtaking to watch. They both said yes so I gathered up plates and utensils and all the other necessary accoutrements and placed them on the counter to take outside with me. I was pulling the salad out of the fridge and fretting over what kind of dressing Ryan wanted when he came back in to see about getting some plates.

“What kind of salad dressing Ryan?”

“Ranch?” he asked and I smiled and nodded my head.

I grabbed it out along with the blue cheese for Adam and I and the lemon for the asparagus. And then the timer was going off signaling that it was ready and I grabbed the pot off the stove and turned the burner off and prepared to dish it up.

Ryan was hanging over my shoulder, looking at it and finally said, “Hey, that smells pretty good!” and I had to laugh at that.

“Ryan, grab the butter out of the fridge for me please, I forgot it. It’s in that compartment there in the door. Yes, right there,” I indicated when he had his hand in the right spot. He brought it over as I was rolling the lemon on the counter top to get the juice flowing in it. I laid the asparagus out on a deep plate and dropped some butter onto it and then squeezed the lemon juice all over it. Salt and pepper and it was ready.

Adam was calling for the plates and Ryan said, “Oops, I forgot!” and was headed out the door, plates in his hand.

I grabbed the asparagus and salad and headed out the door with them. As I sat them down on the table I saw Adam pulling the steaks off of the grill and noticed that Ryan was watching with rapt attention. I suspected we had unwittingly added another ‘honorary Richland’ to the family. I headed back in and put everything else on a big tray and carried it out. At the last minute I added 3 beers because I thought we could all use them.

Adam immediately grabbed one, popped the cap and took a long drink. Ryan just stared at it and I could tell he was trying to decide whether or not to drink it. I thought he was probably sort of feeling like he was ‘on duty’ and so was having a mental debate about it. I decided to make a joke and asked him, “Do I need to see your ID young man?”

He laughed and shook his head and said, “No, but I don’t know if I should drink that or not. I probably need to keep a clear head, just in case.”

Adam asked, “Will one beer relieve you of your clear head Ryan? If you feel so you won’t offend us, but on the other hand if you just want to relax a bit, go ahead. You have back up,” he said, nodding to the hill.

“Seriously Ryan, can I get you something else to drink? We’ve got some diet Coke and there is always water,” I offered.

“I think I would feel better if I had the diet Coke, if you don’t mind,” he told us apologetically.

“Not a bit,” I said and got him one. We all sat down and started passing the dishes around. Ryan wasn’t shy and I was right about his appetite. I told them my thought about the Richland appetite and after we explained it to him he laughed so hard tears were streaming from his eyes.

“Now you see, that’s just a Texas kind of appetite. Every healthy Texas boy has one and the Texas girls too.”

“Well Ryan, you are with the right people for the weekend, anyway!” Adam jested good-naturedly. “So what did our fine Little Elk have to say? Can you tell us?”

Ryan immediately blushed a bright rosy red and I knew that at least part of what he had said wouldn’t be passed on to us. He laughed and said, “Each time I talk to him it will get a bit better. But - ,” he said, taking a drink of his diet Coke, “We did get to review the security tapes from the convenience store. And we did see the purchase of the phone.”

“And let me guess,” I stated. “It was someone wearing a blue hoodie, right?”

“Well, yes it was, but there are several shots and they are running them through analysis and enhancement to see if they can get a better look at the face of the person. They could tell that the person is about 5’8” or 5’9”, so that helps.”

Adam and I immediately looked at one another. The person from the pictures in Italy was shorter than that they had determined and that agreed with Adam’s and my perception of the person who ran past us and the eyewitness accounts.

Adam and I looked at each other in alarm. Together we said, “So there are two of them!”

Copyright 2006 Cynthia Hope Hodge

Monday, March 26, 2007

Crocodile Tears

Chapter Seventy

The funeral was a media dream opportunity for the reporters and press. Dozens of celebrities were there, some extremely famous ones in fact and I realized I hadn’t had any idea that Rachel ran in such esteemed circles.

“She doesn’t,” Tamara replied to my comment. “Some of these people are here to pay their respects, which is nice, but many are here for the publicity only. They will look directly at the cameras and shed profuse crocodile tears, lamenting the loss of one of this era’s greatest actresses and how Hollywood will never be the same, all the while letting the pictures capture them from their best angles. It sounds terribly jaded I know, but that is how it works. So be prepared Sarah and try to keep your face composed always because as sure as it’s sunny in California they will find the moment when you frown for an instant and take a photo of that and it will be spread across the headlines reading “Sarah Marcus is happy that Rachel is dead. She was my enemy! Sarah declares.”

I sort of scoffed at that before realizing how serious she was. We were still in the limo, waiting for our turn to pull up so that we could get out. It was like the Academy Awards; watching limos disgorge their stars onto the red carpet. The sad thing was that Rachel was a fine actress; now that I had met her I realized that first hand and wasting talent is always a tragedy.

We had explained Detective Morgan’s presence with us and what had happened last night when we had gotten into the limo at the airport. Tamara and Mark listened attentively as Detective Morgan explained that it was best for all of us to agree about security issues, for us and the boys. Tamara visibly blanched once or twice, but she stayed strong. Mark sat there with his arm around her shoulders and I could tell that he was her rock and I was so happy she had him.

Coming from this industry, they at least understood how all this works, bodyguards and being so prominently in the public eye. I knew that Tamara and Mark both shunned the publicity that comes with celebrity status; but they also appreciated how the game was played.

“Adam,” Mark said, “You know that I understand how much you hate all this, but it’s for the best.” He turned to Tamara and said, “You know, maybe it would be a good thing for you and the boys to come back up to the shoot with me. We could hire a tutor for them and a bodyguard. We could control the situation much better there Tam, think about it.” He added this last bit because he saw reluctance flash across her face.

“Mark if we do that then Tristan will miss soccer games. His team is in the semi-finals now; we can’t do that to him,” she said, shaking her head negatively. “We just can’t. We have to make it work another way, that’s all there is to it.”

“I have to agree with you ma’am,” the detective said. “It will be best to keep things as normal as possible, especially for the outside world to see. Tell me about the school where the boys go. Is it a private school? Does it have open access?”

“Yes, it is a private school and to get in you have to have a pass card,” she said. Adam pulled out his wallet to show the detective what it looked like. “It is a very controlled environment; we chose that school for that reason specifically. There are other celebrities’ children who go there, and so they are always alert and vigilant to outsiders.”

“That’s good – a great beginning. Now tell me about the other aspects of the boys’ lives that may not be so easy to control.”

Tamara continued on. “Well, the hardest part would be the soccer games. As I said, Tristan, our oldest son, well his team just made the semi-finals and that means games at different locations with lots of people we don’t know. That’s harder to control, if not impossible,” she admitted miserably.

‘Maybe not as much as you think. You say there are other kids with celebrity parents in that school?” he asked and when she nodded yes he continued. “Do any of them play soccer?”

I knew they did because I had caught a few of those parents at the games and Tamara again nodded and said, “Yes they do.”

“And do any of them have extra ‘help’ or anything like that?”

She began to catch on and so did the rest of us. “Um, yes they do. Yes, yes.”

“So it would probably be safe to say that another person wouldn’t be that noticeable? Might fit in better than you think even?”

“Yes, maybe … probably. It could work.”

“Alright. Then this person could follow, at a discreet distance when you take the boys to school and pick them up, run errands and such?”

“Yes, I suppose they could. I just don’t want the boys seeing this happening. They will wonder why.”

“As I said, discretion would be the key here. Is this a plan you could live with?” Detective Morgan was wonderful at this. He was calm and reassuring, which was exactly what Tamara needed. Adam hadn’t said a word; this had to be something that Tamara could live with. I admired his ability to remain quiet during this discussion because I know it was very hard for him.

Tamara finally looked at Mark and together they nodded their agreement. “Alright then, shall I get you some names of people for this job?” the detective asked.

A slight smile played across both Tamara and Marks faces. Mark said, “Forgive us Detective Morgan, but in this we are probably better connected than you are. Having bodyguards is a frequent occurrence in California and I think we can handle that task ourselves. But thank you very much for offering.”

That handled, Detective Morgan nodded his head and the talk drifted back to last nights events.

Mark said, “Adam, you couldn’t even tell if it were a man or a woman? Was the voice muffled or something? Or was it electronically altered?”

That hadn’t even occurred to me, that someone could have used some kind of gadget to alter their voice. Adam frowned for a moment as he replayed the call in his mind. “I’m not sure, but now that you mention it, that voice could have been altered in some way. It had a certain, um, false sound to it. I thought it sounded very forced, but what if it was played through a synthesizer or something?” He looked at Detective Morgan and said, “No one asked me about that last night. Probably I guess because I told them that I couldn’t tell if it were male or female.”

“That thought hadn’t occurred to me and I am guessing it didn’t to Little Elk either. If we could come up with some similar sounding voice recordings, do you think you could possibly determine whether or not it was like them?” he asked Adam.

“Yeah, I think I could. It was pretty distinct now that I think about it. It was soft and restrained sounding really, even though it seemed as if someone was forcing it. And it had a definite flat tonal quality to it.” He was nodding his head as he remembered more about it. “Yes, I bet it was altered. Mark, thank you so much for mentioning that because I might not have realized it.”

We were all still thinking about that as we waited for our turn in the long line of limos. I couldn’t help but wonder where so many came from, limos I mean. Do people own them or rent them? And if they owned them, do they always ride around in them I wondered and I decided I would hate that.

There was one car ahead of us and it had Lyle, Sunni, Krista, Paul, and William inside it. We watched as the doors opened and they got out and I wondered how they could manage not to be blinded by all those lights flashing in their eyes, even with the bright sunshine over head.

Lyle evidently said something very briefly to the press and then they were moving on. Adam pointed William Patton out to me, his manager. He was standing by the walkway where people were emerging from the limos; probably waiting for Adam. “William will make a statement when we get out Sarah, so just try to keep your face blank and let William handle the press.”

I nodded and tried to swallow the huge lump that was rapidly rising in my throat. I didn’t have much time to think about it though because the door was being opened and we were sliding out into the crowd of people.

People were immediately yelling Adam’s name out and he looked at William and nodded and William came over and made a very brief statement. “Adam would like you all to realize the focus of this sad day should be on Rachel and asks that you respect his wishes to remain anonymous today. Thank you,” he finished and then we were moving on in to the church for the service.

No cameras were allowed inside of the church and it was made known that anyone caught with one would be removed immediately from the premises; Adam and I both wondered about our camera phones. We both recalled the video that had been shot from those girls camera phones at the supermarket and so we were both cognizant of the fact that someone could be taking pictures that way. But whether it was the church or Rachel’s publicists, it didn’t seem likely that it would be an easily accomplished task to get a good picture. To begin with, Rachel’s casket was closed which I thought was kind of surprising so they obviously were not going to get pictures of her in state. And on top of that, a dozen or more ‘security’ people were constantly moving through the crowd, watching for anything suspicious. It was a concerted effort by many people to keep unauthorized pictures from being taken.

The service was dramatic and moving and I thought it was fitting; I doubt if Rachel would have wanted it any other way. Her sister who didn’t want her body back in England showed up at the last minute, making a very theatrical entrance into the church, sobbing piteously “Rachel, why did you have to leave me?” It was a performance meant to win awards and it made the situation all the more depressing because of that. I cried while all that was going on; sadly not because of Rachel’s death, but because I wasn’t sure if anyone here would truly morn her passing. If the depth of true emotion were any kind of indicator here, Rachel’s seemed to be a life wasted and her passing meaningless.

I noticed Krista and Sunni sitting with William and Lyle in the next row up and while Krista was still very pale, she looked a little better. Sunni was uncharacteristically quiet, but given the circumstances that was only appropriate.

Adam and his manager chatted while we waited for the service to begin, about last night and about my parent’s television interview. I later found out that surprisingly, it had helped things a great deal – it seemed America loved my parents and now Adam and I. And they all wanted to know when we were getting married since we had my dad’s permission. Tamara sat next to me, with Mark beside her and Detective Morgan on his other side. His eyes were constantly scanning the crowd for any signs of trouble. I had to hand it to him, he didn’t seem at all phased by the crowd; neither those who were famous or infamous impressed him. He stared at them all with suspicion.

He was a good looking young man I decided, if somewhat severe. His blond wavy hair and green eyes could have been perfectly at home amongst all these handsome celebrities. If he would only smile a bit I thought. Of course, each time I had seen him had not been ideal circumstances by any means. The little lines around his eyes told of someone who probably laughs a great deal. I thought he looked around 30 and I remembered that when we first had met him he had seemed to speak rather fondly of Detective Arnold in Wichita.

Tamara had her head resting on Marks shoulder for part of the time and she looked weary. I knew exactly how she felt. I wanted to find a hole somewhere and pull it in after me; suddenly I craved the anonymity of my oh so ordinary life. And yet here I was, at a Hollywood funeral sitting in a row of rich and famous people surrounded by even more rich and famous people. I would have felt awed if the circumstances been different; as it was I only felt dismayed by it all. I wanted to jump up and yell, “Doesn’t anybody in this room feel anything about this? About her death?” and then I thought how strange that was given our past feelings for one another. So I just sat there quietly instead.

A very famous pop star sang Amazing Grace and it brought tears to my eyes again and I saw that Tamara was crying as well. She reached over and clasped my hand in hers and we shared a very poignant look. There were sobs from all around the church and many of them were accompanied with scanning looks around them to see if anyone noticed. That pretty much sums the whole service up.

We spent an hour in an endless funeral procession to the cemetery that was 15 minutes away, but many people appeared to use this as the place for their grand photo opportunities; they couldn’t very well ban cameras from this public place, so people left their limos, sobbing tearfully, lamenting the loss of Rachel. I only saw it as something to get through and was thankful that the grave side service was very brief and that we could leave.

Don’t get me wrong, there were very many people there who were genuinely nice; good and decent people who were probably there for the same reason we were, it was respectful. Like us, they weren’t there to get their picture taken but to show the world that the acting community respects its own.

Again we sat in traffic, awaiting our turn to pull away. Reporters had again tried to question Adam and Mark both, but William handled it all. He had ridden with us to the cemetery and we were going to drop him back off at the church to pick up his own car. While we sat in the limo William asked Adam if we were heading back immediately and Adam said that we were.

“Adam, why don’t you stay overnight? I can get you on a flight tomorrow or Sunday even. I’d like to get you on an interview to try to counteract some of the press from the past few days.” He looked at me and said, “Sarah, your parents helped things a great deal, but Adam needs to tell his side of the story.”

I stared at him blankly because it wasn’t up to me. I’d be more than happy to stay. I could stand a night or two at home. But Detective Morgan spoke up “No, that’s not a good idea. We need to keep you in a controlled environment Mr. Richland.”

“Detective, what was it? Oh Morgan? I understand and appreciate your concerns and we will pay very close attention to them, but this part of the job is mine and you are going to have to understand that sometimes we just have to do these things. Adam and Sarah will be very safe at his house and we will make sure the set up for the interview is equally safe. We could even do it at Adam’s house. I already have security watching it; it is perfectly safe I assure you. I really believe you are overly concerned.”

Detective Morgan was looking quite unhappy. I noted his red face and realized it wasn’t from embarrassment, it was from anger. But he kept it well under control, I’ll give him that. His orders had obviously been to accompany us here and bring us back to Dallas safely. Period. That didn’t include a two day unexpected delay. “Mr. Patton, their safety is my only concern and the sooner I can get them back to Dallas, the better for everyone. In case you don’t understand it, last night someone made a death threat against Mr. Richland. I’d say that rates some serious concern, wouldn’t you?”

Point for the detective I thought, mentally scoring one. But William Patton was an expert at this game; he just withdrew and tendered his attack from another direction.

“Yes, yes I see your concern detective. So you must stay here as well, to uh, oversee the set up of the security. You do have a spare room don’t you Adam?” he said, ignoring Adam’s murderous look and continuing on. “Yes, that way we can lay some plans for the future, since Adam will be traveling back to Italy soon. Now, it’s all settled. Here, do you need to call your superiors to let them know your plans?” he asked, handing his cell phone to Detective Morgan.

Morgan licked his lips and blinked a couple of times before admitting defeat and accepting the phone silently. He also wasn’t going to forget or forgive this I thought. His look was doubtful as he entered the phone number and pressed the call button, but there wasn’t much else he could do. At the same time Adam called Lyle and told him we were staying until Sunday sometime and that the detective would be staying with us.

Tamara spoke up then and said, “The boys will be very happy you are here. I didn’t tell them that you were coming since I didn’t think you would be able to see them. You both look exhausted so I’m not going to tell them tonight, but tomorrow I will. Tristan has a game of course, if you can manage to come.” She indicated Detective Morgan, who was still on the phone with someone in Dallas; someone who obviously wasn’t happy with him.

I smiled for a moment and there was a moment when Tamara’s eyes and mine met and just clicked in response with one another. I was very thankful for that. I nodded and said, “Yes, that sounds wonderful. Then maybe you all will come to the beach house for a barbeque? I really need to just relax Tamara. Of course, we’ll have to find out when Adam’s interview will be, but at least it will be at the house.”

Adam was off the phone with Lyle and caught the last part of the conversation and looked happy for the first time all day. He looked at William and said, “Can you set us up for the interview at my house on Sunday William, just give us tomorrow for the family please? And get some more of that security so we can go to the game?”

William nodded and pointed towards Detective Morgan, who was still on the phone and who looked grievously pained. “What about him? Okay if he stays with you and is he enough security do you think?”

Adam frowned, as if having forgotten the detective. “Yes, it will be okay and he probably will be more than enough security, but we’ll have to ask him I suppose.”

Just then the detective held the phone away from his very red ear and said, “Uh, I just don’t think this is going to work. Little Elk wants us back today. He’d uh, like to talk to, well whoever is in charge.”

I hid a smile and so did Tamara. William looked at Adam and Adam looked right back at him, then they both looked at Detective Morgan. “Well detective, aren’t you the one in charge? Just tell Mr. Little Elk that plans have changed!” William said, as if it were all so simple.

I definitely heard a snort and looked around to see Mark coughing rapidly in an attempt to hide it. Morgan looked indignant and like he’d rather face a firing squad than tell Little Elk that we weren’t coming back today. I looked at Adam, as if to say ‘do something’ and Adam sighed and took the phone from the detective and held it to his ear.

“Hello Detective Little Elk, this is Adam Richland.” He listened quietly for several long minutes which presumably Detective Little Elk was explaining all the reasons that we had to come home. Adam was very patient and then said, “No, sorry we cannot do that. We’ll be back late Sunday evening I believe.” And then he hung up the phone and handed it back to William. And not another word was said about it. But the good detective looked close to passing out.

We dropped William off at the church and he told us he would be in contact with us and so we then headed out to Laguna Beach. We were coming from the southeastern suburbs of Los Angeles and so we weren’t yet on the Pacific Coast Highway. I waited impatiently for that first view of the beautiful rolling waves on the blue water and as soon as I saw it I broke into a huge grin. Detective Morgan caught that grin and turned to see what I was smiling about.

“Wow,” he said. “I’ve never seen the ocean before; it’s incredible.” I smiled at that remark. He sounded like I had the first time I had seen it; he was in for a treat and he didn’t even know it. I remembered the first time I had met him; the night we found the dead rat in our bed. When he first came into the house that night he had seemed so calm and self-assured; exactly the opposite of right now. He was clearly flustered by the disagreement with Detective Little Elk and I wasn’t sure if Little Elk was his boss or what. But Little Elk was a good twenty years older than Morgan and so maybe it was a seniority thing. I took another look at him as he watched the passing scenery out the window and realized he was probably younger than I had thought, late twenties at the most. And then I had another thought; suppose he was married? How would his wife feel about him staying here?

“Uh Detective, are you married? I mean, do you need to call your wife and tell her you are staying or, um something?” I sure didn’t want to go back but I also didn’t want to be the cause of a marital war either.

He grinned at me and said, “Nope, not married,” and then focused his attention back out the window.

I was already thinking of the practicality of the situation. Adam and I both had clothes to wear, but the detective didn’t. He was about Adam’s size as far as waist size went, but he was a few inches shorter, so shorts and tee shirts would fit him well enough, but nothing else. And then I thought of something else; we had come on a private plane so we hadn’t gone through airport security checks. But what if he had a gun with him. His suit could easily hide one I thought. Going back through LAX would be a problem if he did. With a sigh I decided Sunday would be soon enough to worry about it.

Then we were pulling into the driveway and Detective Morgan’s eyes were about to pop out of his head. I made a mental note to find out what his given name was because I was getting tired of constantly thinking of and referring to him as ‘detective’.

“This is your house? You live here, right on the beach?” he asked incredulously.

We ignored him for a minute as we said our good byes to Tamara and Mark with promises to call the boys a little later and to be at the game in the morning. Tamara told us that it was at 10:45 and I was glad it wasn’t as early as the one last week. And then I was amazed by the fact that it was only a week ago we had been here. Adam closed the door and the limo headed off, back to Tamara and Marks house. There was a car in the drive and then I remembered that it was Friday and so Mrs. Barber was here.

Adam wrapped his arm around my shoulder as we walked up to the door, where Detective Morgan was waiting impatiently. He had been scanning the road in front of the house and made the comment, “Not many places for someone to watch unobtrusively there.”

“You are right detective. They’re probably up over on those hills just north of the house, pointing towards them. That’s public access ground and from that height they can probably see most of what goes on.”

He held his hand up to shield his eyes from the bright sunshine and looked up on the hill and nodded his approval. “I’m sure you are right; it’s a perfect place for observation. Far enough away to be unobtrusive and close enough to be able to get here quickly if needed. I hope your William Patton called them to let them know we were coming.”

“I’m sure William did detective,” Adam said, getting the door open.

We surprised Mrs. Barber who was vacuuming the living room. “Oh my gracious Mr. Richland, I wasn’t expecting you. You like to scared me to death! Ms. Marcus, welcome back,” she said warmly, wiping her hand on her pants before offering it to me. We started to introduce her to the detective and then Adam stopped and frowned for a moment. Neither of us wanted to introduce him as a detective. He solved the problem.

“Hi, I’m Ryan Morgan, an uh, friend of Adam and Sarah’s, from Dallas. How do you do?”

She smiled and bowed her head in acknowledgement of the introduction and said, “Welcome to California then Mr. Morgan. I’m pleased to meet you.”

She looked around us and asked, “Do you have any bags Mr. Richland?”

“No, this was a spur of the moment visit actually. We were here for Ms. Tomlinson’s funeral. Mrs. Barber, could I impose upon you a bit and ask that the guest room be made up and for you to make a quick trip to the market if I make you a short list?” He looked at me with a smile and added, “It seems I’ve been volunteered to host a barbeque tomorrow!”

“Oh certainly Mr. Richland, I’ll be glad to. The guest room is already made up but I can change the sheets if you like.” At Adam’s shake of his head she continued, “I was actually planning on going shopping anyway because I need some cleaning supplies. You just go ahead and make that list and settle in and I’ll be ready to go in an hour or so. Now go on with you and let me finish up here,” she said with a shooing motion.

I was already showing Ryan the house, up here anyway. He was looking at the family room and grinning at the TV when Adam found us. Ryan looked around the room with appreciation and I couldn’t help but laugh because it was the consummate guy’s room. I left them to admire it and headed down to the bedroom to change into some shorts.

That’s where Adam found me awhile later. I had decided to take a quick shower and was just finishing getting dressed when Adam came in. It was amazing, just being here made him look years younger; those stressful lines around his eyes and on his forehead smoothed out while he was here to be replaced by smiles and chocolate brown eyes that crinkled at the corners with happiness.

He came and enveloped me in a happy embrace and kissed my neck lightly. “Um, you smell good,” he said while running his hands up and down my back.

I pulled away from him, remembering our guest and thought to myself that I was glad I had left some toiletries here or I wouldn’t be smelling good for long. He laughed and started digging through his drawers and I realized he was looking for something for Ryan to wear. It was amazing how quickly I had come to think of him as Ryan, but it made it so much easier to refer to him like that.

“Just getting a few things for Ryan to wear while he is here.” He went into the closet and started looking through some drawers in there and came back with a new package of boxers for him. “These ought to do it for him. I’ll have Mrs. Barber grab him some deodorant and a toothbrush and stuff while she is out. I’m going to go and make a list now. See you downstairs soon love?” he asked.

“Heading there now,” I told him. I watched him walk to the guest room and knock on the door before I disappeared down the stairs. I opened the blinds and then slid the doors open to catch the breeze and inhaled deeply. The wind was brisk, but by no means chilly and I thrilled to the sound and perfume that wafted in on it.

I was grabbing a bottle of water out of the fridge when Adam joined me; I was trying to see if there was something to munch on. I was hungry I realized; we hadn’t eaten all day and if I was hungry Adam had to be starving.

“Do you want some water Adam?” I asked. At his nod I grabbed another bottle out and then found some cheese and apples that looked good and pulled them out too. I looked at the apples with consternation and wished for some peanut butter and then sighed and carried it all over to the breakfast bar where Adam was working. I then hunted through the pantry until I found some crackers and grabbed plates before sitting down to feast on it all.

Adam was busily writing his list and so I munched away on my own and left him to it. I had offered him a cracker with cheese on it but he had waved it away and said he would be happy to eat just as soon as he was done.

Ryan came downstairs a couple of minutes later wearing a pair of navy shorts and a white tee shirt. As soon as he hit the bottom of the stairs he exclaimed and headed straight to the open doors. I asked him if he would like a bottle of water and then snatched one for him at his affirmative nod. I handed it to him as he stood staring out the door, his mouth gaping open in amazement.

He took it distractedly and cracked the top open and took a long drink before saying, “Ms. Marcus, I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s amazing.”

“Please, call me Sarah, at least while we are here Ryan.” He nodded to me and I said, “It took my breath away the first time I saw it. It is quite amazing; I agree.”

“This whole place,” he said, looking around him in wonder, “It’s beyond description. This whole day really.”

“I understand Ryan, I really do. I still feel that way myself, very often. It’s not like the world we come from is it? The ordinary world I mean.”

He nodded, his gaze following some sea birds out over the water. “Unbelievable actually,” he murmured.

“Hey, are you hungry? I have some cheese and crackers and fruit over on the breakfast bar. It will have to do until we get some groceries in here and Adam can make some dinner.”

He quirked his eyebrow at that. “HE cooks?” nodding toward Adam.

“Yup and if you are really nice he might just make you banana pecan pancakes for breakfast while you are here.” I led him over to the breakfast bar and pointed to a seat and then pushed the food over to him so he could help himself.

“I heard that love. Offering my services again, hm?” Adam smiled, still busy at his list.

I giggled and replied, “Yeah, you know I only love you for your banana pecan pancakes!”

Ryan was watching this playful banter between Adam and me with amusement; his eyes darting back and forth between us as we spoke. “He really cooks?” he asked again, as if he wasn’t sure he could believe it.

“Young man, I assure you that I do indeed cook and if you are very lucky I might just get this list done so Mrs. Barber can get to the market and purchase groceries so I can do just that!” Adam joked.

I took a bite of my apple and shrugged. “He’s hungry; he gets kind of testy when he hasn’t eaten.” I saw Adam try to hide a smile as he worked away at his list.

“So Ryan, is Little Elk really pissed?” I asked with a smile. I couldn’t wait to hear the scoop!

Copyright 2006 Cynthia Hope Hodge